From the Gold Rush of the 1870s, to the 1906 earthquakes, to the civil rights movement in the 1960s, San Francisco has seen decades of impactful events. Around every San Francisco corner you are sure to find a small fragment of history, and each neighborhood embodies a unique culture that connect residents and visitors to the past.
Whether you’re a life-long resident, new transplant or world traveler, there is rich history and depth to discover in San Francisco. Check out these modern-day San Francisco neighborhoods that have been shaped and molded by the city’s complex and colorful history.
San Francisco’s oldest neighborhood, the Mission District, has a history distinct in itself. Spanish missionaries were the first to settle in the area in 1776, establishing the sixth church in California and oldest surviving building in San Francisco, Mission Dolores, formally known as Misión San Francisco de Asís.
Although Mission Dolores was established in 1776, the area did not see a major population boom until the Gold Rush, which played a significant role in shaping the Mission that locals know and love today. The spreading word of gold discovery in San Francisco in the 1850s led to many migrating to San Francisco with dreams of striking it rich. The Mission became home to German, Irish and Italian immigrants.
The Mission’s Latin influence and culture gives the neighborhood a unique flavor. In more recent years, college grads, artists and activists have been moving to the Mission. With mural-clad walls and oozing vibrant culture, the Mission has become increasingly attractive for home buyers in San Francisco. The median home value there is $1,191,100, just below the $1,119,500 value in San Francisco.
In late 1800s, the Castro looked very different from the neighborhood today. During the Gold Rush, the Castro was nicknamed “Little Scandinavia” due to the high concentration of immigrants of Finnish, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish descent who flooded the area. By 1930, with the influx of immigrant and working-class residents, the Castro grew ethnically diverse.
In World War II the gay population in Castro grew due to honorable discharges to homosexual military personnel who settled in the area. Commonly known as a “Gay Mecca,” the Castro District served as the home of the gay rights movement, with Harvey Milk at the forefront paving the way. The neighborhood became a place to celebrate love in solidarity and pride.
Today, the Castro holds onto much of the fervor and solidarity that first arose in the 1970s. In fact, 28 percent of households in Eureka Valley, Dolores Heights and Castro are gay partner households. The history and clout of the Castro as a gayborhood makes it sought after and coveted by residents. Those looking to relocate will find that homes in the Castro District are more expensive compared to San Francisco overall. The median home value in The Castro is $1,759,600, 57 percent higher than that of San Francisco.
Best known as San Francisco’s “Little Italy,” the North Beach neighborhood is beloved by tourists and locals alike – something that is not easily found in San Francisco. North Beach is notably marked with Italian-inspired influences throughout local cuisine, music, art and culture.
Prior to the San Francisco coast augmentation, North Beach was quite literally the northern coastline of San Francisco and the gateway into the city for thousands of immigrants – Irish, German, French, Chinese and Canadian – during the time of the Gold Rush. Although most immigrants eventually settled in other San Francisco neighborhoods, Italian immigrants found their home in North Beach. According to legend, when the 1906 fire and earthquake swept through San Francisco, Italian residents protected and saved their homes by covering them with wine-soaked blankets.
The authentically rich culture and charming vibe present today attracts young professionals and singles looking for homes in North Beach. The cost of a home is 12 percent higher than San Francisco, with a median home value of $1,257,500.
Historic events over the past three centuries have led people of different backgrounds to migrate to San Francisco, shaping the diverse culture found today. If you’re looking to explore or pay tribute to San Francisco’s notable history, consider visiting these long-standing neighborhoods to get a taste of the culture.